BUFFALO, New York (WGRZ)--Instead of getting a mammogram every year, or every other year, what if there was an easier way to detect early signs of breast cancer?
It's something they're working on at Niagara University.
"We've started to look at urine, which is a much easier thing to get from people," says Dr. Mary McCourt, leading the research.
"Instead of getting a mammogram every year, you go for your annual physical and instead of having to schedule a mammogram as well, you give a urine sample and they do an analysis on it," Dr. McCourt explains.
It certainly sounds easier and less invasive and uncomfortable.
"People that have different kinds of diseases will have different kinds of products that come out of their body- and out in their urine. So, you should be able to test people's biology, biological samples, and say, ok this indicates you have heart disease, this indicates you have something else," McCourt says.
Dr. McCourt and her students will spend the next two years looking at samples from healthy women and women with breast cancer.
Using a machine that acts like a big magnet, a urine sample will go into the machine and interact with the molecules inside. A "read out" of some sort would then determine if further screening is necessary. The next step could be ordering a mammogram.
"So ideally would this at some point replace a mammogram or be an earlier test?" Kristin Donnelly asks.
"The idea initially is that initially it would be an earlier test, sort of a pre-screen for a mammogram," McCourt says.
The research will be funded by a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, for $150,000 dollars. That money could be extended in two years. It was presented to Dr. McCourt in front of hundreds of breast cancer survivors.
"These people are really needing this. They really want this, they really need this. Sometimes researchers are really far removed from that experience. It was very very moving for me," McCourt says.
If successful, this test could also monitor the success of various treatments for breast cancer.
The formal study began November 1st and will last two years.
Niagara University is also planning a new state-of-the-art science building with help from billionaire businessman Tom Golisano. His $10 million dollar investment kick-started the campaign and the hope is this new cutting edge research will eventually end up in a new cutting-edge center.